These showed that the animals only excrete some of the seeds after a relatively long time, thereby facilitating their dissemination over vast distances.

With the aid of the data on flight movements and seed excretion periods, the researchers were able to calculate the potential of an entire colony to disseminate seeds over long distances and to transport them to deforested areas. By this means, they discovered that a colony of 150,000 straw-coloured fruit bats could disseminate more than 300,000 seeds in a single night.

“The straw-coloured fruit bats disseminate primarily fast-growing trees, which create the right environment for other tree species to establish and grow,” explains Dina Dechmann of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell. “These are enough seeds to replant 800 hectares of forest per year in Ghana alone.”

The profit that the regrowth of this much forest generates for the population, for example through edible fruits, increased soil fertility and timber has been estimated to be in excess of 700,000 euros.